Marketing For Social Good: What Works And Why
Species are going extinct at 100-1,000 times the rate before humans arrived on the scene. Some species have lost over 50% of their historic range. Threats such as overfishing, ivory poaching, illegal timber harvesting and bushmeat hunting are the primary drivers of species losses across the globe. And unfortunately, informing and educating the public is not enough. If facts are inconvenient, people have an amazing capacity to ignore or deny them. With the situation growing more dire by the day, what can we do?
Think marketing. Marketers are masters of behavior manipulation. But a different form, called “social marketing”, applies marketing principles to create sustainable social transformation. The international conservation organization Rare uses social marketing campaigns across the globe to drive change. Known as Pride Campaigns, they promote a specific conservation behavior in a target community. Rare operatives carefully analyze the target audience and segment it for greatest effectiveness. To encourage the desired behavior change, they create a “benefits exchange”. Banners, posters, radio and television programming, songs, and clothing all get the desired message out into the community. Data is gathered to identify changes in behavior after one year and again after 2 ½ years.
As an example, Rare conducted a campaign in the Yuhe Nature Preserve in the Gansu province of China to encourage the adoption of fuel-efficient cookstoves. This would help conserve the forest habitat for the Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey. From pre-campaign surveys, project leaders learned about the local residents. They typically used wood for cooking, so the stoves would save time and improve indoor air quality and cleanliness. However, the stoves were expensive, and residents didn’t know how to make, use, or maintain them. There was also no forest management plan in place. Armed with this information, the campaign provided subsidies for the stoves to address the issue of cost. It also offered training on stove use and maintenance as well as advisory support to develop a plan for the forest.
For this study, researchers analyzed data from 84 Rare social marketing campaigns to determine what factors create persistent behavior change. The campaigns were conducted at sites in 18 countries from 2009-12. Using theories of behavior change from the field of psychology, the authors refined elements of several behavior change models into a set of eight experimental variables. These fell into three broad categories.
- Knowledge—includes systems knowledge, that is, knowledge about the issue, and solutions knowledge, or knowledge about how to solve the issue
- Attitudes—includes normative attitudes, or beliefs about what is expected or acceptable in a community, and barrier attitudes, which are beliefs or feelings about obstacles to a behavior
- Interpersonal communications
Behavioral intention was also included in the variable set. It is influenced by both knowledge and attitudes and in turn, has the strongest direct effect on behavior so it.
Data from pre- and post-campaign surveys was used to measure campaign impacts. A variety of hypotheses were tested to learn which behavioral variables or combinations best explained the campaign outcomes. The model that included all eight behavioral variables (knowledge, attitudes, interpersonal communications, and behavioral intentions) achieved the strongest result. It explained 71% of the behavior change observed in the campaign outcomes.
The results show that global conservation challenges can benefit from this approach. Creating campaigns that target the variables in the study model can effectively address pressing conservation problems. The results also demonstrate that intervening in behaviors from multiple angles is critical for success. Changes in knowledge and interpersonal communications were mutually reinforcing and preceded changes in attitudes. Discussing behavior with other people may lead to changes in attitudes. This, in turn, influences future behavior.
Pride campaigns model a successful approach that can create sustained behavior change. This study provides insight into why this method of social marketing works. We know by now that simply providing more information about animal welfare issues is not enough. Rare has figured out how to structure campaigns to solve difficult conservation problems. Advocates can take a page out of their playbook.